Saturday, August 13, 2011

Shoot The Gap

Here is a quick recap since the grOundBlog has been on a wee vacation; in the last post I was revisiting a Costa Rican experience in the beautiful town of Quepos where we met up with Jeff, a friend my aunt and uncle met while vacationing in Costa Rica before.  We decided to embark on an adventure cross country to the Caribbean side of Costa Rica. 


Creature Comforts Part Three

Being on a road trip requires some lodging along the way.  Unfortunately I was traumatized by a small bug incident while on a trip to Indonesia that followed me to Costa Rica and my poor aunt and uncle gracefully indulged my fears.   The bugs are very present while you slumber.  Most cabinas have bug nets that go around the bed to protect you.  Still I woke up with many bug bites each morning.  My Aunt Cheryl was a soldier and shrugged off her new creature bites each morning and my Uncle Pete didn’t seem to get bit that much at all. You have to understand that we were traveling and staying in different places each night.  The resorts do not have the bug problems that the cabinas we stayed in did.  The cabinas were clean and very cute but those multiple legged critters always found away in at night.   I never knew what the term “Creature Comforts” meant until I was thumbing through an accommodation guide of Costa Rica like a lunatic, black balling any place that sounded sketchy.  I black balled anything that mentioned creature comforts until finally my aunt said, “Alicia, creature comforts does not mean there are actual creatures in the room with you.  It means there are many amenities that make your stay comfortable.”  Duh. You learn something new every day. 

In order to get to the Caribbean side of Costa Rica you have to pass through the coffee hills.  In order to get through the coffee hills you have to drive along with many other tourists and locals in large trucks transporting goods across country.  It was on this venture that I experience fear like no other.  For those of you that have read my previous blogs, I am easily frightened..yes..but in this case there were prayers being said. 

We were driving in our little rental car with Aunt Cheryl driving, me in the passenger seat, and Uncle Pete and Jeff were having a toddy in the back seat.  I noticed right away how narrow the roads were, not mention they were not in the best of shape.  My Aunt Cheryl is a great driver and both her and my uncle made me feel at ease while driving.  However, the traffic on these narrow roads became congested as we climbed further into the hills.  Most of the vehicles were large trucks that clearly were in a hurry because they would jet out into the other “lane” and pass any one in their way. The problem was that the roads were not straight, they winded up the hills and half the time you couldn’t see the oncoming traffic coming around the corners.  There was this unwritten driving code among the locals that alerted each other that they were passing and to “get over”.  They would jet out on a whim, honking there horns profusely hoping the oncoming traffic around the corner would hear them and get over.  The second problem was the roads were so narrow and there were no guard rails to stop you from tumbling to your death over the side of the road.  Occasionally there were little pull-outs that often cars or trucks would use if they were lucky to come across while being forced over by a honking vehicle.  I was grateful that we were going slow and just following the other traffic.  As the hours passed and our distance wasn’t moving as fast, the other tourists became brave and started following the lead of the honking trucks.  They were jetting out into the oncoming traffic lane honking their horns with only a hope and a prayer.  Every once in awhile there would be a gap in traffic and three or four vehicles would shoot out and try and make it.  Soon we were passing accidents and I was becoming nervous.  As we climbed, the air became dense and foggy making visibility that much more difficult. It was at this time that my aunt decided to join the honking party in hopes of getting ahead of the long line of traffic we were behind and putting some distance behind us.  By this time my uncle and Jeff had several toddies in them and were shouting, “Shoot the gap!”  And that is exactly what my aunt did when opportunity presented itself.  My heart raced and beads of sweat formed on my brow as she honked our chipmunk horn and raced passed the other trucks and cars.  Each time we made it and I thanked God for keeping us alive.  Pressure from the back seat was building to get to a town faster because Jeff had to “poop” and my uncle had to use the washroom as well.  My aunt continued to bravely “shoot the gaps” for the following two hours and I made all kinds of promises to God and dug groves into the dash with my finger nails.  

We made it as far as a town buried in the coffee hills of Costa Rica.  I couldn’t believe the temperature difference.  At one point while on a look out point, it was snowing a little and we were all wearing bathing suits and sarongs.  We went shopping for fall like clothing for the two day stay there.  We found these hot springs in the center of town and thought it was necessary considering it was cold there! There were two pools.  One was a regular sized swimming pool and the other was a little kiddy pool.  We all dove right in and jumped right out with a scream after the shock of the cold water.  The “hot” springs weren’t so hot.  My uncle chose to sit in the kiddy pool because it was shallow and he claimed it was warmer.  My aunt again was a soldier and shrugged off the cool chill of the water and swam around.  Jeff and I huddled in a corner shivering and complained a little. 

After a two day stay and a tour of the coffee plants, we were off to the Caribbean side of Costa Rica.  The Caribbean side is very different.  The people there are more laid back with their long dreads, hash pipes, and colorful clothing.  They were friendly and said things like, “ya man” and “no worries man.”  I liked it there.  The ocean at the time was tumultuous drawing hundreds of surfers to the large crashing waves.  Our cabina was this little hut with a thatched roof up on stilts.  One night we were treated to a rare sighting of a sloth slowly making its way past our front porch.  We spent out afternoons shopping in markets, walking along beaches, and touring the country side. I remember passing a dead animal that was being devoured by a group of large black vultures!  It literally took them five minutes to clean up the mess! 

I was in Costa Rica a month and I feel I grew up a little there.  With each experience outside your own comfort zone you tend to grow from it.  My aunt and uncle were so much fun and took really good care of me.  I will forever remember the kindness and hospitality of Jeff and Emma.  If you every get a chance to go to Costa Rica, travel around and grow from it!!


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